Yaakov & FDR

December 8th, 2011 by admin | Filed under Sermons.

Shabbat Shalom.
Some of you may remember hearing the speech that I am about to quote from; or, at least all should be familiar with its most famous line. I quote:
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by … the Empire of Japan.
President Roosevelt concluded with the following words:
As Commander-in-Chief … I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense…I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
With confidence in our armed forces—with the un-bounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.
Yes, 70 years ago, the Japanese’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded.
This Shabbat, parashat Vayishlakh, our ancestor, Yaakov, is about to confront his sworn enemy, Esav. What does Yaakov do in anticipation?
First, Gen. 37:4: Vayishlakh Yaakov malachiim – Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esav.” Yaakov attempts to negotiate with his brother.
Second, Yaakov’s negotiators return with the report, v. 7: “we came to your brother Esav, he himself is coming to meet you, and there are 400 hundred men with him.” We understand those 400 men to be a powerful military troop.
Third, upon this perceived threat of military action against, Yaakov (v.8) “was greatly frightened…he divided the people…into two camps (v.9) thinking if Esav comes to 1 camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.”
In comparison, what did President Roosevelt do in a somewhat similar situation, a perceived threat of military action?
First, he attempted to negotiate with the Japanese government.
Second, he was advised by his messengers that there was an imminent threat.
Third, like Yaakov, he divided his defensive resources into 2 camps pending such an attack.
Where the comparison ends is, Roosevelt, unlike Yaakov, did not learn in time of the full extent of the Japanese military plans, and based upon which proved to be not fully accurate intelligence assessment, he ordered the Philippines to be the more fortified, never thinking that the Japanese would attack Hawaii.
The heinous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized this county and led to our entry into WWII. To note, on December 7, 1941, the 1st transports to Chelno death camp began. In hindsight, Pearl Harbor for the descendents of Yaakov, probably prevented the entire annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany.
Yes, Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy, and, we all well know the other infamous date that came to be associated with December 7th, the day upon which another sneak attack, successful due a failure of communication within the intelligence agencies, took over as the highest single day toll of American lives lost: September 11, 2001 – 9/11!
Indeed, I see a clear link over the span of time between Yaakov and Roosevelt, and, I fear that B`nai Yaakov, which became B`nai Yisrael, faces an ever more ominous threat from a sworn enemy – a nuclear holocaust coming from Iran.
What will our modern day Yaakov do? Split his camps or launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran? And what will Yaakov’s ally, Roosevelt do? Be a true ally, or wait once again until 6 million Jews are murdered? In this case, correct that number to the current Jewish population of Israel – 7 million Jews!
God forbid! And, may the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ring true once again: “with the un-bounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”